Intel Trickles Out Dual-Core ServersBy John G. Spooner | Print
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The chip giant has begun its transition to dual-core server hardware by handing out a few dual-core machines.
Intel Corp. says its chips are better together when it comes to servers.
The Santa Clara, Calif., chip giant has begun pitching new server platforms, which bundle processors such as its forthcoming dual-core Xeons, with other silicon bits and add special features such as virtualization, to businesses early.
As expected, the chip maker got the platform campaign started by beginning a program to seed servers based on its dual-core Xeon DP Bensly chip and Xeon MP Paxville processors to businesses.
Machines based on the chips, which will officially arrive in early 2006 emblazoned with new model numbers, will be delivered to thousands of potential customers for testing, a company executive said.
Intel, which lost ground to rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in server shipments during the second quarter according to Mercury Research Inc., is sending out the machines in advance in order to allow potential customers to evaluate the dual-core processor server platforms.
The effort, Intel hopes, will allow it to quickly win companies' business.
The new servers "have already started trickling out," said Shannon Poulin, an enterprise marketing director in Intel's server group. By the end of the year, "We're going to aggressively seed thousands of units or maybe tens of thousands. It gets customers there and ready for the technology. It greases the skids, so to say."
Intel plans to shift its server lines to the dual-core processor/platform strategy quickly in 2006.
It will follow the Xeon DP and MP chips, which will be dubbed with 5000 series model numbers and 7000 series numbers, respectively, with less power hungry dual-core Xeon chips for rack-mount machines and server blades.
During the first half of 2006, the chip maker will roll out a lower voltage version of Dempsey for rack-mount servers.
Intel will also add Sossaman, a dual-core chip based on its forthcoming Yonah mobile-processor, for blade servers.
Sossaman, a 32-bit processor that will also come out in the first half of 2006, will consume about 31 watts of power. Intel's current low-power "Irwindale" Xeon chip for blades consumes about 55 watts.
Next Page: Emphasizing special features.
Yet, despite the numerous new processors coming, there will be little mention of their clock-speeds or cache sizes from Intel. The chip maker will focus instead on its platforms' features, going forward.
"We used to go in and say, 'What kind of technology are you interested in? What kind of server do you want?' Now we're saying, 'What's the problem you want to solve?'" Poulin said. "You'll see us focus more on the things like management technology, virtualization and fully buffered DIMMS" or dual inline memory modules.
The change will have Intel pitching the platforms and emphasizing their special features, including hardware-based virtualization support and input/output acceleration, versus selling only chips.
Virtualization, whose main elements are part of the processors, will allow the servers to be partitioned to run different jobs simultaneously.
The Intel I/O Acceleration Technology, which will speed up certain high-priority operations such as processing TCP/IP, will require the processor, chip set and Ethernet controller from Intel.
The platforms will also include Foxton Technology, which helps dynamically regulate processors' power consumption, and the cache error checking feature dubbed Pellston Technology, in addition to supporting Intel's Active Management Technology.
IAMT is a hardware management engine that works with consoles such as Computer Associates International Inc.'s Unicenter.
Its Xeon MP chip platform, which includes the Paxville chip, is dubbed Truland. Bensly is its name for the Xeon DP platform, based around Dempsy.
Despite the fact that thousands of the platforms will go out to customers over the course of the rest of the year, they won't go on sale in large numbers for several more months.
That gives AMD, which gained ground in the second quarter, at least some advantage until early 2006.
AMD's dual-core Opteron server chip came out in April.
The only dual-core processor servers available based on Intel hardware are small and medium business-oriented machines that use its Pentium D and E7230 chip set.
But Intel doesn't appear worried, given that companies generally take much longer to adopt new servers than they do to move to new desktop or notebook technology.
The critical nature of the jobs most companies use servers for means they are tested for a period of time before getting rolled them out.
Intel believes that the seeding program will help meet companies' needs for testing allowing them to buy machines, if they choose, as soon as the new dual-core Xeons hit mass production in 2006.
Poulin declined to comment directly on AMD's second quarter progress. Instead, he emphasized Intel's plans to quickly transition to dual-core server chips.
The company believes that by the end of 2006, 85 percent of the server platforms it ships will use dual-core processors, Poulin said.
"We're going to aggressively ramp our dual-core [processor] from top to bottom," he said.
Versus AMD, "We think that our fab [manufacturing plant] capacity gives us an advantage when you talk about [manufacturing] dual core," he said. "It's and advantage when it comes to volume."
Intel will emblazon Montecito, its dual-core Itanium 2 chip, with 9000 series model numbers.
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